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Software-defined WAN gaining traction

26 Apr 2016

As organisations look to evolve their networks to meet the demands of digital transformation, software-defined wide area network (SD-WAN) technology is picking up momentum.

That’s according to Silver Peak, who says SD-WAN is tipped to have the same impact that cloud had on the IT industry when it first launched.

Doug Farndale, vice president Asia Pacific for Silver Peak, says SD-WAN differs significantly from a legacy network and requires new ways of doing things.

Farndale says there five steps a business should take before implementing an SD-WAN:

1. Make sure the infrastructure is ready

For some companies this might mean upgrading hardware, and for others software, but for most it’s probably both, Farndale says.

“For all, it is important to think ‘end to end’ to ensure that all the infrastructure components are ‘SD-WAN ready’ before deployment,” he explains.

“If the goal is to migrate to an SD-WAN, then make sure the infrastructure is 100% ready to go before the project begins.

2. Do an application audit

To make the most of the SD-WAN deployment, Farndale says businesses need to have a sound understanding of what applications traverse the WAN and what traffic patterns are like.

“It’s also important to know what dependencies the applications have, which ones are subject to what types of network issues — like packet loss, jitter, or delay — and how much bandwidth they consume,” he explains.

“If a hybrid WAN is being used, network managers need to understand which applications must run over MPLS and which ones can run on broadband without a significant drop in performance,” Farndale continues.

“An application audit can answer all these questions and can help organisations to build an application strategy. Without it, the impact of an SD-WAN will be minimal.”

3. Change the organisational structure

“In most companies, the network, application, and compute teams work independently and interact very little with each other,” Farndale says. “\Although this has never been ideal, it was sufficient in a legacy IT world.

“With SDNs, these IT sub-departments need to work together as a tightly integrated team,” he says.

“Applications and compute infrastructure are highly dependent on the network, meaning that a significant amount of cross-group collaboration will be required to ensure user productivity is not impacted.”

4. Rethink IT security

“Securing a legacy network certainly is not easy, but it is straightforward as there are a minimal number of ingress/egress points and attack surfaces,” says Farndale.

“With an SD-WAN, traffic patterns change, branch offices have direct Internet access and the number of attack surfaces grows.

“Traditional perimeter security tools are no longer effective in a software-defined world,” he adds.

“It is important to re-think security strategy and implement products that are continuously gathering network data, analysing it and looking for anomalies. In this way security will become more pro-active versus reactive,” Farndale says.

5. Evolve the skills of network operations

Even if the infrastructure is ready and the applications have been studied, a business needs a network operations team with the ability to support it, Farndale explains.

“Managing virtual workloads, network architectures, orchestrating services and analysing data requires significantly different skills compared to managing routers,” he says.

“If an organisation lacks sufficient internal skills, it should consider using a managed service as a way of bridging the gap.”

According to Farndale. evolving to an SD-WAN has a strong ROI for businesses but many of the benefits could be negated if the proper pre-work isn’t done carefully.

“Be aggressive with SD-WAN, but remember it is important to ensure that the organisation is ready,” he says.

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